There are faster ways to get from Denver to Moab, Utah, than by train, but they don’t involve viewing stunning canyon and desert vistas through glass-dome windows, white-linen-tablecloth meals complete with local wines and beers or lively stories about the route and region shared by an on-board host. Rocky Mountaineer’s two-day Rockies to the Red Rocks rail experience also offers opportunities to spot rare wildlife along the way, have conversations with new friends over handcrafted cocktails and, perhaps best of all, spend many hours offline and fully in the moment as there is no on-board Wi-Fi and cellular service is weak and intermittent.

Ahead of my trip last fall on the Canadian railway company’s newest route, being disconnected from work emails and group chats was something I was worried about rather than looking forward to. But, surprisingly, the trip provided a refreshing break from the constant pull of social media and the never-ending demands of our work-from-anywhere culture. My first morning on the train, after enjoying the welcome mimosa and a hot breakfast of waffles and hickory-smoked bacon, I stretched out in my reclining seat and listened as the on-board host, Mike, regaled us with local trivia and a brief history of this rail route and the landscape. There was little distraction from my myriad of digital devices, and I found myself spending many long minutes just gazing out the window of the railcar, watching the scenery speed by. For this city girl, it felt like a front-row seat to a real-life nature documentary. 

Horses At Sorrel River Ranch

Horses At Sorrel River Ranch Truc Nguyen

As we followed the Colorado River—crossing the Continental Divide and passing scenic ranches, grasslands and farms—I began to settle into the gentle, unhurried rhythm of the train. By the afternoon, I had started introducing myself to fellow passengers and cracked open the slim paperback I’d brought along, and I didn’t bother trying to refresh my inbox again until our train pulled into the pretty town of Glenwood Springs, Colo., for the night. In my hotel room, after a soak in the famed Glenwood Hot Springs Pool—the world’s largest hot-spring pool, open year-round—I did some work but also realized there wasn’t anything urgent in my inbox. And by the early hours of the next morning, I was back on the train, watching the landscape change colour with the rising sun.

I ventured into the adjacent lounge car—access to which is granted with the pricier SilverLeaf Plus service, which also includes mixed drinks and premium spirits—and took dozens or maybe hundreds of photos from the outdoor viewing area, which is a small open-air space between the two cars. Occasionally, to get the right angle for a shot, I would stick my head out the open window, enjoying the sunlight and brisk autumn air on my face, leaning into the roar of the train. We crossed the Colorado-Utah state line, spotted herds of mule deer and antelope and passed dazzling sandstone cliffs and mountains. By early afternoon, we arrived at our final destination and it was time to disembark. I was excited to head out and explore Moab but also not quite ready for the train ride to end. The serene yet breathtaking trip reminded me that sometimes when we travel, it’s as much about the journey as the destination. 

A View From The Train

A View From The Train Courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

Seeing Red

The Rockies to the Red Rocks tour goes either east or west; whichever direction you choose, be sure to book in some extra time in Moab. Next to the Colorado River and near Arches and Canyonlands national parks, the small desert city (population: 5,366) is a stunning adventure-travel hot spot that offers ample opportunities for mountain biking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and more. 

See & do

Whether you go for a guided visit—a half-day tour with Moab Adventure Center is available as a Rocky Mountaineer add-on— or a self-driving trip, Arches National Park is a must when you’re in Utah. Time your visit to catch the “magic hour” light at sunrise or sunset, and be sure to leave enough time to hike and explore top sites like Delicate Arch and Devils Garden.

Jeep and UTV (utility terrain vehicle) off-roading experiences are a fun and fast-paced way to explore the area’s surreal landscapes and extraordinary rock formations. A gravity-defying drive on the “slickrock” sandstone of Hell’s Revenge, a popular four-wheel-drive trail, is guaranteed to thrill.


Sorrel River Ranch, about 30 minutes outside of town, offers breathtaking views in every direction: red rock, mesas, mountains and the winding Colorado River. An idyllic 97-hectare property where chickens and pot-bellied pigs roam freely and herds of wild deer can be spotted grazing at dusk, the lush riverside resort is an extraordinary getaway from the everyday. There are horseback-riding, hiking, spa and wellness experiences on-site, and you can book high-adrenaline excursions like canyoning, off-roading tours and even skydiving. 

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Glenwood Hot Springs Pool

Glenwood Hot Springs Pool Truc Nguyen